By Lama Khater
History has proven that the stupidest measure any occupying power anywhere can take is to strip an effective and influential political and social movement from all of its gains and its public activities. This means that the occupying power will push this movement to a point where it no longer has anything physical to lose – whether that be institutions, headquarters, associations, or any facility in which it exercises its public activities – and where it no longer needs to abide by specific rules in order to avoid being outlawed or harshly persecuted.
This is exactly the strategy that has been adopted by the Israeli occupation against the Islamic Movement in 48 Palestine, led by Sheikh Raed Salah. All of the headquarters of the movement’s preaching, media, relief and sports organisations were raided, it was declared a banned movement, and its leader was taken in for questioning. These measures are not expected to be the only action taken against the Movement, as Israel expected to expand and progress to additional forms of persecution and prosecution, including authorising the arrest of the Movement’s key figures. Despite the fact that such measures are not entirely new, in the past Israel preferred to let the Movement carry out its public activities as long as they did not carry out any physical resistance activities.
However, it seems that the Movement’s recent achievements in the Occupied Territories have sounded off Israel’s danger alarm. This is because the Islamic Movement has deep and influential roots in the Arab community, since it has contributed to maintaining Palestinian’s Muslim and Arab identity by means of preaching, political, cultural and services activities. It also worked to raise the level of the community’s affiliation with its cause, starting with the key issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Sheikh Raed and his colleague have become icons of the Al-Aqsa cause, and they have arguably been the reason behind the plight of Al-Aqsa becoming a touchstone for the entire Muslim nation. The violations at Al-Aqsa have become a red line that warrants the outbreak of uprisings and intifadas over the past few years.
As for the Islamic Movement’s discourse, it is very clear in its hostile language against the occupation and in defining the role it believes Palestinians and Muslims must play in order to defend their sanctities. Therefore, it is only natural that Israel would declare war on the Movement because it represents is a thorn in the side of the occupation and because its popularity is growing, not falling day the day. This is due to the fact that the Palestinian masses have experienced the Movement’s honesty, authenticity and perseverance, and felt its clear impact on their reality on a number of levels.
With regards to the potential consequences of the occupation’s recent measures, this is the last thing we should concern ourselves with at the current tie because these measures are a formality that will only impact the Movement’s physical and visual activities. We also shouldn’t be concerned because the Movement targets a deeply rooted and widespread idea and because bans and persecution will only lead the supporters of this movement to other forms of struggle against the occupation. These forms will not be concerned with physical considerations will are not be hindered by fear of consequences.
The occupation already banned Hamas in Palestine a year after it was formed. It arrested thousands of its leaders and members and its campaigns against the movement grew progressively harsher and more brutal as the years went on, including assassinations, arrests, confiscations and persecution. What has been the result of this after all these years? The movement did not disappear; its project was not hindered, and the masses did not turn against it. Instead, its choice to resist renews itself in every phase and it grows, developing new ideas and activities. Now Israel has made the mistake of attempting the same measures against the Islamic Movement in 48 Palestine. This can only fuel the Movement’s cause in the long term.
(Translated by MEMO from Felesteen.ps, November 18, 2015.)